All, The Wonderful World of Language

Know What You’re Looking For

When in the market for professional language services, it helps to know what you’re shopping for. At the very least, familiarizing yourself with the correct terminology can cut down your search time; at the most, it can help you locate a professional who is well-versed and experienced in her field. It goes without saying that the better your chosen language professional is at her job, the better the final product will be.

Translator

The popularity of the word “translate” in our vernacular seems to have lent itself to the categorization of any transference of meaning from one language into another as “translation,” regardless of its form. This is unfortunate, as it limits people’s understanding of the profession and lumps a wonderfully diverse range of form, function, and skill into a single, ill-fitting box.

Theirs is an art of time, research, contemplation, and study. They patiently wade through context, decipher meaning, and weave together a new tapestry, rich with the colors of the target language. It is a tapestry so fine, it’s as if it had been created in the target language itself, not born of the marriage between translator and source text.

Translation refers to the act of transferring meaning from a text’s source language (the language of the pre-translation text) into a text’s target language (the language the text is being translated into). The key element here is that of the transference of meaning from text to text. Barring extenuating circumstances, translators don’t work with the spoken word. Theirs is an art of time, research, contemplation, and study. They patiently wade through context, decipher meaning, and weave together a new tapestry, rich with the colors of the target language. It is a tapestry so fine, it’s as if it had been created in the target language itself, not born of the marriage between translator and source text.

Translation takes time, practice, and skill. It is research-heavy and grammar-intensive. It takes years of training, practice, and experience to cultivate the speed, accuracy, and linguistic prowess necessary for a successful and lucrative translation career.

Your business is your baby. It feeds your family, it put your kids through college, it supports the families of all of the men and women you employ. Your business matters. Your image matters. The translation of your website, manual, or advertising materials matters. Trust the job to someone who can do it right. It’s worth it.

Which is why, when people ask me why they should pay for my services rather than turning to Google Translate or using a bilingual member of their staff, I tell them it’s worth paying for a quality translator. Google Translate can’t pick up on the subtle nuances of context, culture, and language use. A bilingual staff member doesn’t have the training, resources, or language skills needed to execute the job to a professional degree. Your business is your baby. It feeds your family, it put your kids through college, it supports the families of all of the men and women you employ. Your business matters. Your image matters. The translation of your website, manual, or advertising materials matters. Trust the job to someone who can do it right. It’s worth it.

Interpreter

The word “interpret” is commonly used when speaking of human behavior, dance, and even handwriting, but it loses its linguistic foothold to the term “translation” when it comes to discussing verbal communication.

Interpretation, commonly and incorrectly referred to as translation, is the act of transferring meaning from something said in the source language (the language being spoken) to something said in the target language (the language being interpreted into). Interpreters may work in only one direction–that is to say, interpreting solely from a set source language into a set target language–but more often than not, interpreters interpret in both directions, switching from language A to language B in the blink of an eye. A colleague and former professor of mine once said that the cognitive output of an interpreter is akin to that of an air traffic controller. I remember the day she said it; I smiled and let loose a soft chuckle. It wasn’t until the day I stepped up to the mic at my first interpretation assignment that I realized how accurate her assessment was.

Interpretation requires near native language skills in both the target and source language. It requires lightning-fast cognition, quick decision making skills, good linguistic instincts, and a powerful memory. Interpreters receive input, decipher meaning, transfer meaning, re-code it, then output it into the target language either as the locator speaks (simultaneous interpretation) or after the locator has spoken for a few minutes, using only their memory and notes (consecutive interpretation).

Trust your interpretations to a professional in the field. Trust the landing of your message to the air traffic controllers of the language world.

This is not a job for the nervous, faint of heart, or those who fear public speaking. This is not a job for a bilingual lay person. Many interpretation jobs call for accurate and detail-specific interpretations, such as a medical consult between doctor and patient, a legal consult between lawyer and client, a business meeting between CEO and potential investor. These often includes specialized vocabulary and intricate cultural and linguistic dances that a bilingual employee or a computer-generated interpretation would struggle to navigate. Trust your interpretations to a professional in the field. Trust the landing of your message to the air traffic controllers of the language world.

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